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Immerse: Beginnings, Week 1

Community Covenant or Covenant Community?

“This is the everlasting covenant: I will always be your God and the God of your descendants after you.” - Immerse: Beginnings, page 22.

When my family and I moved into our home a few years ago, I was a bit concerned over the fact there was an HOA (Home Owners Association) with dues to pay each year, and meetings to attend and other potential obligations. I have never been very fond of HOAs or “community covenants,” because deep down inside, part of me just wants to say, “It’s my yard and if I want to put neon pink flamingos in it and paint the front door bright pink, then I can do it.”  I know there are many benefits to HOAs, and I don’t want this blog to turn into a dissertation about them, but I will tell you, I was relieved to discover our neighborhood has a minimal HOA annual fee and minimal interaction with the daily lives of the more than 150 homes and homeowners in our neighborhood.

I’ve heard of nightmare accounts of homeowners being stopped by their HOA from adding foliage, painting mailboxes, fines for not edging the sidewalk, fines for leaving Christmas decorations up too long, warnings for parking on their own grass and more!  Needless to say, these accounts fed into my fears of what it would be like to be a part of a “community covenant.”

Fortunately, the same cannot be said when it comes to our relationship with God.  As we begin reading through Genesis this month, we’ll be reminded of the covenants God made with several different individuals, eventually leading up to covenants with nations. We see God made concerted efforts to establish community with His creation.  Each covenant is a deeper step into providing a way to remove sin, disobedience and rebellion. Each covenant is an attempt by God to offer more access to Him than ever before.

At this point let me clearly define what I mean by the word “covenant” in the biblical context.  In our 21st century language, we often use covenant and contract interchangeably and treat them as if they mean the same thing.  That would be an incorrect usage of the word covenant in the biblical context. In the Old Testament, the meaning of the word “covenant” was layered in meaning. Yes, it was an agreement, but not just any ordinary agreement or transactional accounting term.  A covenant was the word used to imply the role of one party being firmly over or more powerful than the other party.  Covenants were common among rulers towards their people or landowners towards their servants and hired workers.  It was usually based on the lower party providing services or maintaining standards and the stronger party providing something the other party could not – shelter, food, protection, security, etc. So, with this in mind, let us be reminded what it means to be in a “covenant community” with God. He is the one with the power, we are the ones with nothing to offer but our service.

So, when we look at these covenants in the book of Genesis, let us be reminded to see them for what they are: God’s efforts in reestablishing relationship with His creation. In the garden, He simply wanted to walk with Adam and Eve each day, but sin stopped that from happening.  With Noah, God had always longed to be in relationship with His people, but their sinful hearts never stopped thinking of evil and replaced Him with their own desires.  He established His covenant with Noah to remind them of His love for them.  Abraham’s covenant was another step closer to revealing Himself to His people. This culminates even more with David and finally reaches its climax with the ultimate covenant community we can be a part of through Christ and His bride, the church.

As we read through Genesis, let’s remember not  to see God as some do, as the God of Law and Judgment, but rather, let us see God always desiring to be in relationship with us, but humanity keeps trying to move further and further away from Him. He doesn’t set up these covenants to punish us (or fine us like an overzealous HOA). Instead, they are rooted in God’s desire to be in community with us.

Let it encourage us to be in a covenant community – one who needs Christ at the center – in all aspects of our daily life.

Pete Ramsey